They check August into rehab. Emma faces some demons of her own. And then we all take a very cold shower. Well, not together, but... PS: Ok. I lied. I don't know how many chapters are left. I love writing it too much. You guys still with me?

It took several hours for Emma and August to finalize their statements with Robin at the fire station, combing through the details of the night in painstaking detail. August looked emotionally winded and utterly exhausted, and each time he had to recount some aspect of his oversight seemed to cause him physical pain.

Emma would periodically rub his knee encouragingly or bump his shoulder playfully, trying to reassure him with physical contact. But her proximity and genuine empathy seemed to make him feel worse, like he was a monster for hurting someone so caring and so pure.

By late afternoon, his face looked sallow, his hands visibly shook, and his words were labored and sluggish. But since Emma had made it clear she did not want to press any charges and since August had agreed to check himself into rehab immediately, Robin had to press forward late into the afternoon.

So August went over and over his usual evening ritual as he closed up Saviors—checking and double checking everything was cleaned, emptied, and turned off before he left each night. But he explained that by the time the dinner rush was over on the previous evening, he was already well into the bottle of Bourbon he kept in the kitchen walk in. He hardly even remembered how he got home, much less what he turned off before he left.

"So how can you be 100 percent certain you didn't turn it off?" Robin asked tersely.

August just looked at him blithely.

"Seriously? How do I know? Well, for starters, the restaurant burned down," he spat, making Emma wince.

She took in August's face and leaned into toward Robin.

"You know what, chief? I know you're doing your job and everything, but I think we need a break. I'm sure whatever details we may have missed can be cleared up in the weeks to come, and I'm happy to come back tomorrow and as many times as necessary to finalize all of this and put an end to the matter. This was clearly an unfortunate accident. Would be all right if we left for the day?"

Robin put down his pen and looked between the two. He sighed and nodded, seeing that they were clearly out of juice.

"Yes, thank you both for being so cooperative. I'll be in touch, Miss Swan, if I have further questions," he said, tapping a stack of papers on his desk and rising to his feet. He waited for August and Emma to stand and guided them to the door.

August followed Emma, shuffling toward the door like a toddler being led by his mother. Emma stepped out into the waiting room, but Robin put a hand on August's shoulder, effectively stopping him in his tracks.

"Mr. Booth," Robin said, "I know it's not my place, and you seem to be in very good hands, but I just want to say that I have been in your shoes. I know quite a lot about addiction, and if you're looking for a sponsor, or if there's anything I can do, please let me know."

August raised his bloodshot eyes, staring at Robin with a weary but grateful expression.

"Thank you," he said softly. "That's very kind."

Robin gave him a clap on the back, and August stepped into the waiting room behind Emma.

"Regina should be here in a few minutes to pick us up. She made arrangements at a really good place, and she stopped by your house and got some of your things. I hope that's ok," Emma said.

August gave her a weak smile.

"It's going to have to be, right?" he said.

"Right," Emma said, looping her arm through his and guiding him toward the entrance of the fire station.


The closer they got to the rehab facility on the outskirts of Storybrooke, the more Emma felt a sickening sense of dread. Regina had spent the afternoon looking for the best place for him, and she found a spot on a nature reserve that was ideal for a little soul searching. It was serene and private, but the prospect of leaving her friend to fight through his addiction and battle his demons with strangers made her ache with sadness. She felt like she was deserting him somehow.

In the front seat of the car, Emma worried her bottom lip and picked at the hem of her shirt relentlessly until Regina finally reached over and took the hand she could reach and brought it into her lap. Regina's eyes never left the road to glance at her, which Emma was grateful for, but she still seemed to sense the snarled traffic of guilt and pain noisily making its way through her fiancé's mind.

So when they arrived, Regina wordlessly handled the check in, speaking to the nurse manager and filling out the necessary paperwork. The check-in nurse informed them that rehab wasn't covered by his health insurance, but before either one of them could process what that meant, Regina had plunked down her credit card for the immediate costs and offered her billing address for the remainder of the stay. Emma considered protesting, but she'd learned through their months together that when Regina operated on this channel, there was very little that could be done to alter the trajectory, and that most often, she was right.

So Emma focused on August, who was ashen and clammy, but seemed relieved as he was guided to a small, clean room with a bed, an empty desk, and a tiny bathroom. While he took off his shoes and sat down on the bed, Emma took a moment to speak to the nurse.

"Hi, I'm Emma, nurse…"

"Elsa."

"Elsa. Great. So, what's this going to be like for him? I mean, I've obviously seen it on TV or whatever where the first few days of withdrawal are really awful. Is that, like, real?" she said, nervous tension pulling her lips into a frown.

The nurse, who was a thin, prim-looking woman with icy blue eyes, took pity on her.

"I'm afraid so, dear, but we are going to take very good care of him here. He's exactly where he needs to be, and this is what we do. We get him well so that he's strong enough to take back his life in the coming weeks and get back to his life," the nurse said kindly, putting her hand on Emma's bicep. "He's going to be ok, and you can come see him next week."

"O-Ok," Emma said weakly. When the nurse left, Regina stepped forward, placing a hand at the small of her back.

"Are you ready to go, Em?"

She was prepared to usher her out, as she could feel Emma teetering on the brink of a breakdown. But then, right before her eyes, Regina watched as Emma straightened up, steeled her spine, and took a deep breath, seeming to find a new gear and headed back toward August. When she got to his bedside, she kneeled down before him, placing her hands on his thighs. He looked far away, and he barely registered her presence.

"August? I know you're feeling like a pile of worthless crap right now, but I want to tell you something. You'll probably never remember this, but during our first week of culinary school, we had that class together with that fucking Gestapo chef who loved to dress us down."

"He humiliated me on the second day because I burned my creme brûlée to a crisp, you remember? He told me that if I couldn't caramelize a creme brûlée without turning it to charred remains then I would never make it out of his class alive, much less make it as a chef. He said I would be a class-A failure," Emma said, with a smug smile on her lips.

"You remember what you did? You pulled out your textbook-perfect creme brûlée, and you said, 'Just because you can caramelize something perfectly doesn't mean you're not a class-A asshole,'" Emma said with a laugh. "The whole class cracked up, and you were on his shit list for the rest of the class. But he never treated me that way again because you totally knocked him on his ass in front of everybody."

August looked at her, his eyes turning liquid and warm for the first time all day. He breathed out a laugh and rubbed the hand on his thigh gratefully.

"August, you've saved me so many times, and it's ok to need a little saving, too. You are my brother, and I promise you're going to be ok. Ok?"

He nodded, not trusting his voice. Emma stood up and ran a hand gently through his hair.

"The nurse said you can call me if you need me. Any time, day or night, if you need to hear a friendly voice or…"

She leaned down and whispered that she loved him, kissed his cheek, and turned to go. Regina then squeezed August's shoulder and turned to follow Emma from the room.

"Regina?" August said, his voice raspy and tight, stopping her in her tracks. She turned back to him, her face open and questioning. "Take care of her. She'll show a strong face, but she's broken inside."

Regina nodded.

"I swear I will. You can trust me with her heart. I'm going to guard it with my life," Regina said, tears welling in her eyes. "Just get better, August. She won't take the next steps without you."

She gave him one last lopsided smile and followed Emma into the lobby and out the door.


By the time they headed home, it was nearly 9:30, and Emma yawned in the passenger seat.

The drive home was quiet, but a deafening storm was thundering in Regina's mind, plagued by a thousand thoughts and questions about what her role should be in the coming days and how best to protect Emma without belittling or suffocating her.

She had spent the afternoon calling around to find the best rehab facility for August and squaring away the logistics so he and Emma wouldn't have any extra details to worry about. But for all her pragmatism, Regina was overwhelmed with emotion. On the one hand, she was completely enchanted and amazed watching Emma toss her own emotional needs aside to put her friend's needs first, but she also felt an overwhelming desire to protect Emma from both outside threats and the harm she presented to herself in her effort to step in front of the bullet.

She'd seen her do it so many times. Having avoided her own demons for so long, Regina recognized the same tendencies in Emma. But Regina knew she needed to face this loss, to feel the acute pain that was sure to come, and to allow herself to mourn it in order to move on.

Staring at the road ahead, the blur of the oncoming headlights, suddenly Regina knew without a shadow of a doubt what she needed to do, what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She felt her heart begin to race as adrenaline began to flood her bloodstream at the power of the revelation, and her knuckles grew white on the steering wheel at the realization.

She was so swept away that she barely registered when she'd pulled the car into the garage and yanked up the parking break. She sat there for a moment until she felt a warm hand brush her cheek. She looked toward the hand, and Emma was looking at her with tired affection.

"Long day. You still with me?" Emma said softly.

Regina just smiled in return and got of the car, walking around to open the door for Emma and offering her a hand to help her out of the car. They linked hands and walked inside and hung their coats, not bothering to turn on the lights. Regina followed Emma upstairs and shut the door behind her.

Emma sat down on the bed with an "oomph" and unzipped her boots, tossing them carelessly to the floor on her side of the bed. She rubbed her eyes, looking out at nothing in particular.

"Do you feel like talking?" Regina said so softly, afraid to move too quickly or talk to loud. "It's a lot to process."

Emma sighed. "I'm not even sure I know what I'm feeling. This has been an unbelievable day. And I really just can't believe I've had my head so far up my ass that I didn't see what was in front of me. Great friend, huh? Are you sure you want to marry me? You may start growing a third arm, and I'll be too self-absorbed to notice," Emma said dismissively.

Regina felt goosebumps raising along her arms and the back of her neck. This is what she feared.

"Emma? Do you trust me?"

"Of course, why would you even ask—"

"Do you think I have good judgement?"

"Regina—"

"Just answer me honestly," she said.

"I trust you with my life, and you have better judgement than anyone I've ever met. Except for that one time you tried to break up with me, but hey, no one's perfect," Emma teased.

"Ok, then you'll take what I say right now seriously. Right?" she said, her eyes blazing with an intensity that Emma had only seen once or twice.

She met her dark eyes and gave a solemn nod.

"This was not your fault. This did not happen because you were preoccupied with your love life or because you were selfish. This happened because August has a lot of personal demons, things he needs to address—pain, fear, insecurities. He's broken, like you and I, and he's been using alcohol to cover it, like I used isolation and like you use self-deprecating humor and put everyone else's needs before your own," Regina said, in a gentle, measured tone. She kneeled in front of Emma, whose eyes were wide and wet. Her chin began to quiver, and Regina placed her hands on her knees.

"He is a grown man, responsible for his own actions, and what he did unraveled a dream that you worked very hard to achieve, and that's on him. This was not your fault, Emma, and nothing you did would have changed things," Regina said.

"If I had known, I could have gotten him help sooner, and—"

"No. This was not your fault—say it. Say the words," Regina insisted.

Emma shook her head. Regina climbed up onto Emma's lap, straddling her, wrapping her legs around her, and looked her dead in the eye.

"You are the kindest, most empathetic, most human person I have ever met. But you are not a superhuman, and even you could not have changed this. This is not your fault. You need to say it. You need to believe, or it will swallow you, and then me, and then Henry. This was not your fault. Say it, Emma."

"This—this was not my fault," Emma whispered.

"Louder. Look at my eyes. Say it," Regina commanded.

"This was not my fault," she said, more determined, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Again."

"This was not my fault," Emma said, louder still.

"I love you with everything I am, and this is not going to break us. He'll be fine, and you'll be fine. Because of this—this magic thing between us—we won't let each other fall."

And with that, Emma began to sob, tightening her grip around Regina and burrowing her head in her neck. She emptied her guilt and sadness into the love of her life, who absorbed it gratefully, until she began to hiccup and gasp for air. Regina started to rub soothing circles along Emma's back until her breathing began to slow and the tension left her body. Emma pulled her head up, and Regina wiped her tears away, brushing her hair back from her face.

"Regina?" Emma whispered, "Will you—I want you to make love to me. Will you?"

The brunette's eyebrows shot up. That was the last thing she expected Emma to say. She went to object, but the pleading look on Emma's face changed her mind.

"I need to feel you. I need you," Emma said.

"Ok," Regina said. She leaned in to kiss Emma gently, but the blonde immediately deepened the kiss, and in a split second the energy between the changed from soothing and protective to heated and needy. Regina tried to slow it down, to make the kiss loving and gentle, but Emma pulled back. She looked at Regina and shook her head.

"No. I need you to take me. I don't want to feel anything besides you right now. No gravity or sadness or air—just you," she said.

Emma took off her shirt and was starting to peel offer pants, but Regina snapped to and gripped Emma's hands. For a moment Emma thought Regina was rejecting her, but then Regina gave her a mischievous smirk.

"My job," she said. She finished sliding her pants down her legs, pulling off her socks, leaving Emma in her underwear. She unbuttoned her own shirt, shimmying out of it before unzipping her pants and ridding herself of those, too. She unstrapped her bra, stepped out of her thong, and pried Emma's underwear down her legs. She left their clothes in a pile on the floor and planted a knee on the bed, moving to sit behind Emma. She easily unsnapped the blonde's bra, dropped it on the floor, and pushed her front flush to Emma's back.

She moved Emma's hair aside and nuzzled her neck, nipping and kissing under her ear. Her hands reached up to cup her breasts, just feeling the weight of them in her hands.

"Tell me what you need," Regina husked into her ear, "and I will do it."

The promise made Emma groan and she tipped her head back further on Regina's shoulder.

"I know you want to be gentle with me right now. But I need you to remind me I'm not fragile. I'm strong. Make me feel your love, Regina."

"Oh god," Regina whimpered, feeling the request jolt through her core.

That was all the convincing she needed. She pinched her nipples between her fingers and tugged at them roughly, coaxing a throaty moan from the blonde. Regina knew how sensitive her breasts were, so continued to pull at them until she could feel how worked up Emma was.

She slipped her left hand down along Emma's hip and snaked it down between her thighs, and even though she expected her to be wet, what she felt when her fingertips slipped into her pussy made her gasp.

"Emma, fuck. So wet," she said, her fingers finding her clit and pinching it with the same energy and power she had used on her nipples. She was so turned on, Regina found herself grinding imperceptibly against Emma's ass as she lost herself in the moment.

"Regina, harder. You're going to make me cum," she said, coaxing the brunette to speed her hand and apply more pressure to her clit. "Fuck. Fuck. Yes, that's so good. Fuuuck."

Emma bucked against her hand and rode out her orgasm with a sigh.

Regina moved next to Emma and looked at her, trying to gauge what to do next. Emma kissed her, and Regina was surprised how much urgency was still in the kiss, as if her first orgasm had just taken the edge off.

"More," Emma said, pulling back just a fraction of an inch. "Fuck me."

Regina nodded with understanding, and she rose from the bed, walking to the closet to grab the strap-on and the biggest dildo they owned. She was still slightly apprehensive, but she wanted to give Emma exactly what she needed in this moment.

She stepped into the strap-on and adjusted it till the fit was snug. Emma was usually the one that did this to her, so it still felt a little weird. But hot. If she was being honest, she couldn't wait to fuck her. She inserted the flesh-colored dildo, and as she walked to the bed, Emma licked her lips. Regina was about to turn her on her back, but Emma got up on all fours and let her head fall to the bed, wagging her ass tantalizingly in the air.

"Jesus," Regina said, grabbing Emma's hip with one hand as she guided her erection into her with the other. She let the head slip in and pushed in just an inch, letting Emma adjust to the intrusion. Emma grunted, and Regina pushed in just a fraction further.

Emma back pushing back toward Regina, signaling she wanted more, so she pushed forward again. She pulled back and then pushed in further, repeating the action until she was in to the hilt. She looked down at their bodies, and she was so turned on that knew she was going to cum soon.

"Don't hold back, Regina," Emma said.

Regina tightened her grip of Emma's hips, digging her fingers into to set the pace, and she began plowing back and forth into her body, loving the leverage she had from her standing position. Emma was whimpering and crying out, and Regina knew they were both at the edge. She she climbed on the bed and adhered her front to Emma's back, reaching around to pinch her nipples once more.

"Fuck yes, don't stop. Please," Emma begged, her eyes clenched tightly and her fingers gripping the edge of the mattress. Regina thrust into her with all her power a few more times.

"Emma, I'm cumming! Fuck!"

And then Emma came, shaking and writhing, until they collapsed, exhausted, onto the bed. Regina slid out of the strap-on and pulled the blankets over them, snuggling her body into Emma's.

"Regina?" Emma whispered in the dark.

"Yeah, baby?"

"That was hot."

Regina laughed, her face still flush from exertion.

"I love you, R."

"I love you, too. Sleep. Just sleep."